NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb track and field team kicked their indoor season off with a successful performance at the Vanderbilt Invitational.
After a triumphant 2013-14 season, both indoor and outdoor, that saw the Bisons send multiple athletes to national competitions, expectations were high for the team. Track and field head coach Bill Taylor and his staff entered the first meet not focused on numbers, but instead on seeing what the team would like for the upcoming season.
"It was a very good opening meet for the men and women,” Taylor said. “As I said, we didn't have performance expectations necessarily, rather we wanted to see character, competitiveness and toughness. Overall we saw those things. There is always room for improvement, but it was a terrific start.
Gemikal Prude performed well in the meet, finishing first overall in the men’s high jump with a jump of 2.16 m.
"Gemikal is always a highlight, and he didn't disappoint,” Taylor said.
"Gemikal posted a solid series of jumps on Friday in the high jump, and he is where I thought and hoped he would be to start the season,” assistant coach Luke Syverson said. “We haven't gotten a chance to do a whole lot of technique work since late fall and are still working out the kinks in a new approach run. He had several solid attempts at 2.21, which would have been a new indoor personal record, and is a mark that he will need to achieve to return to NCAA Indoor Nationals. He knows what he needs to do so that is positive."
On Friday, several women’s distance runners came close to setting personal records in multiple events.
"We had some very nice performances in women's distance,” Taylor said. “In the 5000m Friday night the girls pulled out to an early pace that was faster than their fitness. We have only done mileage, and it's really hard to race fast on base with no real quality work. It's even harder when the pace is fast early.
"So I was really happy that Kayla Montgomery was able to hang on and keep herself going after an early pace that I think was 16:20 or something like that. She ran a great first meet time of 17:41 and showed that she is going to go well into the 16's later this season.
"I was also very happy with Katie Grace Dean, who made a gigantic step up from Cross Country and was near her all time personal record for 5k. She really showed a new level of toughness and competitiveness. That was fun.
In the Saturday races, the women’s distance runners contained to step up, building on their success from the previous day.
"In today's distance races we had some great performances as well,” Taylor said. “Madi Talbert ran really fast early in the mile. I think it kind of caught up to her. She ran a solid time of 5:05. It was obvious that she was out of gas and maybe a bit rusty though. I think she is happy with today, but knows she can do a lot more with the next race.
"Kacey Kemper ran an amazing freshman 800m debut. She won her heat by a ton, ran 2:14.46, which is her all-time 800m personal record. More than that, she ran a brilliant race. It was so fun to watch. She is going to do amazing things at every distance. Today was a nice start to her career.”
In the 3000m Barbara Lee Ball placed 3rd and Minna Fields finished 5th.
"The 3000m was also a strong showing for us,” Taylor said. “For the women, Barbara Lee Ball ran possibly her best ever race in terms of how she raced. She stayed calm early, worked her way up and ran a huge personal of 9:54.57. It was really fun to see her race so smart, calm and strong throughout. Minna had a great season debut as well. Taylor Romine was also a big highlight. She's been looking for a breakthrough and today was her best race at Lipscomb so far.”
Wayne Newman finished 2nd in the 60m hurdles and 10th in the 400m dash. Teammates Kenny Smith and Nelson Scott finished 15th and 17th respectively.
"Our sprints and hurdle team showed some great things this weekend,” assistant coach Marcus Evans said. “Wayne Newman a had a great day with a second place finish in the 60m Hurdle final and an all-time personal best in 400 at 49.95, Abbey McMurray had a great opening 60m, and Kenny Smith had an indoor personal best in the 200m. I am most happy with the competitive fire we came out with. The times will come as we move through the season, but the effort was what I was really satisfied with from our group."
In the men’s 3000m Juan Gonzalez set a new school indoor record with a time of 8:21.80, good enough for 4th overall.
"For the men, Juan Gonzalez also ran a terrifically brilliant race,” Taylor said. “He positioned well, stayed relaxed, yet kept himself in the right race. His 8:21.80 is also a new indoor 3000m school record, beating classmate Christian Freeman's record by just .08 of a second."
Syverson was glad to see many of the freshman push past the nerves that are associated with a first meet to succeed during the weekend.
"We had several of the younger field event athletes post indoor personal records, mainly in the throws, and it was good for the freshmen to get the typical 'first meet jitters' out of their system,” Syverson said. “They are all excited to move forward now and keep improving."
Lipscomb will be back in action Sunday, Jan. 25 in Birmingham at the Emory Invite.
"This weekend was great and we are really proud of the kids,” Taylor said. “We don't get a break though. This week distance begins quality workouts, and other event groups will kick it up. Then we have our second meet next weekend in Birmingham. I like what I see from meet number one though, and am very excited about the rest of the season."